Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Music Man
Hale Centre Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Hadestown and A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Rob Stuart and Cast
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw
Meredith Willson's beloved classic musical The Music Man features such well-known, toe-tapping tunes as "76 Trombones," "My White Knight," and "Ya Got Trouble," along with a well-written comical book. With a talented cast, assured direction, fun choreography, and colorful creative elements, Hale Centre Theatre presents a solid production of this crowd-pleasing show.

Set in the small town of River City, Iowa, in 1912, The Music Man tells the story of traveling salesman Harold Hill, a self-proclaimed "professor" of music who has no formal training. Hill's scheme is to swindle parents out of their hard-earned money to pay for instruments and music lessons for their "troubled" boys and then he skips town with the cash before teaching the children a single note of music. However, local librarian Marian Paroo doesn't fall for Hill's con act, knowing he is too good to be true, and she makes it her mission to prove his lack of credibility. When Hill is able to bring Marian's younger and extremely shy brother Winthrop out of his shell, Marian finds herself at a crossroads and realizes that she just might be falling in love with the con man. Is Hill actually in love with Marian, too, or is he scheming her along with the town?

Rob Stuart is appropriately sly and smooth talking as Hill. He does a great job exuding charm to let us see how Hill draws everyone in town to him. His husky singing voice works well on the fast-paced and intricate patter songs "Ya Got Trouble," and "Marian the Librarian," and he isn't afraid to let us see how Hill has a seedy underbelly underneath his shining exterior. Amanda Valenzuela is lovely as the wise Marian. Her expert facial expressions immediately display her disdain for and disapproval of Hill, and her singing voice soars on her songs, including "My White Knight" and "Till There Was You."

The entire large ensemble cast deliver engaging and believable performances of these unique characters. Kathleen Richards is vibrant and witty as Marian's meddling mother and Raymond Barcelo is fun as Hill's former con-man friend Marcellus, who leads the high flying second act dance number "Shipoopi." Justin M. Howell is hilarious as the mistrusting Mayor, and Priscilla Bertling is a hoot as his wife. Paul Henry Swiatkowski is adorable as Winthrop, and Jeremy Cruz, Tyler Brignone, Adam Guinn, and Steve Morgan are sensational as the barbershop quartet, four townsmen who hate each other until Hill brings them together and they find an abundance of happiness in their newly discovered joy of singing together. The vocals of the foursome blend together beautifully under Cathy Hauan's assured music direction.

Director Cambrian James does an excellent job staging the show in the round on the intimate Hale stage and his choreography is fun and inspired. McKenna Carpenter's scenic design uses several elements and stage pieces that are quickly moved on and off stage to depict the Paroo family home, the town square, and the other locales in the show, including the use of wonderful building fronts on the walls surrounding the audience that place us right into the middle of River City. I loved seeing the front of the Madison library that is mentioned several times in the show. Tia Hawkes' beautiful costumes are a range of bright colors and period outfits. The lighting by Logan Gerring is appropriately bright and colorful for the daytime scenes and full of shadows and deep blues for the scenes at night.

Hale's production of The Music Man is a fun filled one, with the charm, warmth and comedy of Willson's rich characters and crowd-pleasing performances of the show's many well-known songs.

The Music Man runs through May 7, 2022, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For information and tickets, please visit or call 480-497-1181

Producers and Casting Directors: David and Corrin Dietlein
Director/Choreographer: Cambrian James
Music Director: Cathy Hauan

Set Technical Director: Brian Daily
Lighting Designer: Logan Gerring
Costume Designer: Tia Hawkes
Scenic Designer and Prop Master: McKenna Carpenter
Sound and Projection Designer: Boyd Cluff
Wigs and Makeup: Cambrian James
Audio Engineer: Jackson Zyontz and Josh Lindblom
Stage Manager: Boyd Cluff

Harold Hill: Rob Stuart
Marian Paroo: Amanda Valenzuela
Charlie Cowell: Jared Kitch
Mayor Shinn: Justin M. Howell
Mrs. Paroo: Kathleen Richards
Winthrop Paroo: Paul Henry Swiatkowski
Amaryllis: Anna Scales
Quartet Member: Jeremy Cruz
Quartet Member: Tyler Brignone
Quartet Member: Adam Guinn
Quartet Member: Steve Morgan
Constable/ Train Conductor: Kelly Jarman
Marcellus Washburn: Raymond Barcelo
Tommy Djilas/ Male Ensemble: Albert Johnson
Eulalie Shinn: Priscilla Bertling
Gracie Shinn: Iris VanSlyke
Zaneeta Shinn/ Female Ensemble: Halle Glazebrook
Davey: Zach Thompson
Ethel/ Pick-A-Little Lady: Noelle Parent
Pick-A-Little Lady: Natalie Edwards
Pick-A-Little Lady: Abby Sherrill
Pick-A-Little Lady: Melissa VanSlyke
Female Ensemble: Tawny Audi
Female Ensemble: Olivia Woodward-Shaw
Female Ensemble: Brie Wadsworth-Gates
Male Ensemble: Joshua South
Male Ensemble: Logan Holmes
Male Ensemble : Chris Reah